Elections in Greece have not had the devastating effect on the euro
that travelers in the U.S. may have been (quietly) hoping for. But the euro is
still nearly as low as it has ever been in more than a decade. Trips to Europe a year ago would have seen you spending at least
USD$1.39 for one euro, which certainly didn’t help your travel budget.
to a strengthening dollar and a whole lot of other economic factors that I
won’t bore you with, you may now be able to travel much more cheaply — for about
USD$1.10 to one euro, which has been unheard of in recent years.
Will you take
advantage of this? You should. Here are a few spots where you might want to put your dollars.
Getting to Europe is half the battle, but once you are
there, Italy is a great bang for your euro. Food is cheap, but the quality is
still impeccable. Avoid tourist traps with photos of food, and you should have
an excellent meal almost everywhere you go. You may not score any Gucci deals
(Prado yes, Prada, no). But you can still see the sights and eat more than you
every thought for a fraction of what it would cost you at home — lower
still thanks to the weakened euro.
This northern country may not be on your radar, but if you
want a slice of eastern European life on a budget in a country that is using
the euro, Latvia can save you a few cents. Lodging (especially hostels if you
are up for it) are some of the cheapest around. The old town charm will have
you excited to sit back and mingle with the locals after exploring all day.
Lake Bled is a must stop for families who love nature, history and charming churches on an island in the middle of a lake.
Vilnius, this Baltic country’s capital, is inland and far
off the usual tourist beaten path. You can mingle with the locals more
easily, save on lodging and food, and take in the historic charm without having
to elbow fellow travelers to get your stroller through the crowds.
If the Czech Republic is on your list, but you want to stick
with the euro, head into Slovakia for cheaper rates than in Prague and Vienna,
both an easy distance from the capital city of Bratislava. There aren’t many
historic sights to keep you busy, but the historic center will keep kiddos
entertained for a bit, and you can make day trips from there.
If you are thinking of going to Italy, you might as well
pop over to Slovenia too. Lake Bled is a must stop for families who love
nature, history and charming churches on an island in the middle of a lake.
Head to the capital, Ljubljana, to kick back with the kids for a few
days, while you catch your breath after so much sightseeing.
Although Croatia is not on the euro (yet!), its currency is
still tied to the euro. It is also still one of the cheapest countries in the
European Union. Because so many visitors who come to Croatia use the Euro, you
will often see prices listed both in euros and the kuna, Croatia’s national
currency. A few private businesses will even accept euros, though they are not required to. Still, if you want to save some money, sleep on the beaches of the Mediterranean and
visit historic sights, Croatia is the place for you.
It may be surprising, but Spain can be a bargain compared to
the rest of Western Europe — if you plan your trip right. Vacation rentals are
comparable to what you would pay in the U.S., and rental car prices are reasonable enough that you could do a road trip around Andalusia or the coast. Food prices
are decent, especially for what you will get. Plus, the weather is much better year round, especially in the south, compared to
northern European countries, who head into fall and winter by October. In Spain,
you could still wander around in T-shirts well into November.
Athens could give you a bit more bang for your buck as they compete with other lodgings and restaurants for your business.
You can still find a good bargain in Portugal. It is out of
the way enough that businesses are eager for your tourist dollars, but
you won’t miss out on any of the food or cultural experiences you were hoping
for. Lisbon is the perfect home base to explore. Food is delectable and cheap,
the trams make it easy to get around the city, and the train can get you out to
Sintra for the day to see some of the most spectacular palaces you could ever
behold (the Pena Palace is painted at least four colors on the outside. Enough
Keep an eye on Greece. As the new government takes over and
starts to put policies in place, they are playing with the budget. Greece could be a
great bargain if it votes itself off of the euro (still a debatable prospect).
If they stay on the euro, you could still get some great deals since the dollar
is gaining. Be mindful of where you visit before you book anything though. The
islands, like Santorini, are still big tourists draws, so you may not find
many cheap deals there. But Athens could give you a bit more bang for your buck, as they compete with other lodgings and restaurants for your business.
Whether you like to keep an eye on the news, scour Bloomberg
for the latest economic updates or just rely on the Daily Show for all of your
information, it pays to keep an eye on the euro right now. That trip to Europe
may finally be within reach and you don’t want to miss it.